The 36 bravest kids in Oslo schools

Mapping of knowledge and attitudes about racism and antisemitism – a survey of students (8th through 10th grade) in the Oslo schools” was published yesterday, with very little attention from the mainstream press.

Next week, delegates from unnamed American Jewish institutions are guests of DMT in Oslo to find out whether there is any merit to the rumor that Norway is the most antisemitic Western country.

So the question is: does this survey substantiate the rumor or detract from it?

Pollyanna, the news is not good.

First, a few words on statistical validity.

  • The government estimates that there are 160 Jewish K-12 students in Norway today out of 615,000 students in total. As the report points out, most non-Jewish students will never have met a Jewish person, never mind a fellow student who is Jewish. So it follows that antisemitic attitudes come from second-hand impressions: the press, parents, politicians, etc.
  • This study only covers schools in Oslo, which is Norway’s largest city, but nevertheless atypical in that fully 1/3 of the students have a “minority language” background.
  • The population for this study consisted of 48 schools with students in the 8th, 9th, and 10th grades, altogether 14,456 of them. The sampling is a little strange: they randomly selected 2/3 of the classes but ended up with 50% of the population. ┬áThus, all 48 schools were represented in the survey, but the response rate varied tremendously: from 55% at Haugerud to 95% at Uranienborg, altogether a 78% response rate. The report does not discuss factors that influenced this.
  • In any event, the survey received 36 responses from students claiming a Jewish background. This is 0.6% of the sample. The report thinks this is a valid statistical sample, and I suspect they are right, if only for the reason that it is close to the actual population.

Now, the findings:

  • Of this entire sample (keep this figures in mind)
    • 15% reported that they had “ever” experienced nasty comments from fellow students and teachers, exclusion, pushing, or worse because of their national origin.
    • 9% had “ever” had this experience on account of their religious identity.
  • The concept of bullying (“mobbing”) is carefully defined as 2-3 incidents or more per month, ranging from verbal abuse to physical threats and abuse.
    • Overall, 6,9% of the students experience this.
    • 33% of the Jewish students experience regular bullying, defined this way. The group with the next highest incidents are Buddhists at 10%, “other” with 7%, and Muslims with 5.3%
  • Some specifics about attitudes toward Jews and Judaism:
    • 60% report having heard students call each other “Jew”
    • The report somewhat naively points out that “Jew” isn’t itself a negative term, so they ascertained that 51% believe that “Jew” is used in a negative way.
    • In addition,
      • 41% have heard ethnic jokes about Jews
      • 35% have heard libelous comments about Jews
      • 4.7% have witnessed active Holocaust denial
      • Only 25.6% have never witnessed anything derogatory about Jews
  • Then there are some disturbing minority views:
    • 30% don’t think that a swastika is a racist symbol
    • Only 54.4% think the term “Auschwitz” is associated with antisemitism. 21% say “no,” 22% claim they have no idea
    • Only 53.9% associate “Holocaust” with antisemitism.
    • Curiously, the term “homo” has become associated with antisemitism.
    • 33.7% think that “Jew” is a negative word; 17% think it’s positive
    • Judaism is viewed as one of the least tolerant religions in the world, only barely ahead of Islam. Bizarrely, even the Jewish respondents thought Judaism was less tolerant than Christianity.
    • Similarly, respondents believe that Judaism has a relatively poor perception of women, ranking ahead of Islam by a wide margin but below all other major religions. And here, too, Jewish respondents put Christianity slightly ahead of their own religious heritage.
    • 67% of Jewish respondents believe that teachers are oblivious to racism in school, by far the group with the strongest conviction about this.
  • Level of knowledge. Students were presented with 11 assertions about racism in general and antisemitism that they could either respond “true,” “false,” “don’t know,” “unsure,” or “prefer not to answer.”
    • 6% responded “don’t know” to ALL the assertions, and another 4.5% responded “unsure.” So 10.5% basically answered the question: “which is worse, ignorance or apathy” with “I don’t know and I don’t care.”
    • But of those who answered the question, the average correct answer was 4.57 out of 11. Which is to say that a random group of 100 monkeys would have done better by tossing coins, approaching an expected value of 5.5. This means that a large number of students are suffering under false information.
    • And it appears – though the report does a crappy job of showing this – that the largest level of ignorance is about Norwegian antisemitism, specifically that Norway had a “law” (well, really a constitution) that prevented Jews from even coming here.

This should light up warning signs within the Jewish community, parliament, the Oslo school officials, and Kristin Halvorsen’s desk. It proves that antisemitism is:

  • A focal point for bigotry among school kids
  • A phenomenon far out of proportion to the number of Jews who actually live in Norway. 36 kids reported being Jewish (and I suspect several of them are fake responses), but “Jew” is one of the most common slurs in all schools.
  • Characterized both by prejudice AND ignorance. In particular, it would appear that Norwegian schools persist in presenting antisemitism as a phenomenon completely foreign to Norway.

Is Norway the most antisemitic Western country? Who cares? It’s bad enough.

Though I suspect that many people will read this, and figure: Why bother? It’s 36 kids. If they don’t like it, they can move.